I have a confession to make: I’m struggling with writer’s (or blogger’s) block. So this is likely to be quite a short post. I feel like things are in a bit of a lull at the moment. After the excitement of the Grand National pub meeting, my big solo day out and the Easter treasure hunting all in recent weeks, the last week’s activity seems rather uninteresting in comparison. Not for me, I have had a few very enjoyable outings, but nothing I haven’t written about before. I’ll give you a quick run down of what I’ve been up to just for completeness’ sake, and then we’ll see where my train if thought takes me. And I do have a major outing coming up in just over a fortnight, from which I’m sure I will derive blogs aplenty.
On Wednesday afternoon last week I was at a meeting in Derry/Londonderry (aka Stroke City). This was obviously work-related and in my male persona. The meeting ended around 3.30 pm, and as it’s well over 90 minutes’ drive back to my office from there I had no intention of returning to work, and I had already arranged with Mrs K that I was just going to go straight to my support group, leaving her on child-collecting duty. So my intention as I drove away from the meeting was to go straight to Lisburn and get changed there.
After little more than 15 minutes on the road I had to pull into a lay-by to make a phone call. That only took a couple of minutes, but since I was there and already parked, I was seized by the moment and went and retrieved my bag from the boot. Almost before I knew it, I was sitting at the side of the main Derry-Belfast Road removing my shoes, socks and suit trousers and replacing them with girly jeans, knee-highs and nude patent wedge ballerinas. All under cover of the car door, so little danger of being spotted by another road user, although inserting the appropriate padding was quite a tricky operation.
The top half was a bit more difficult. At least it was a warm and sunny day, so the idea that someone would remove a shirt and tie to replace it with a vest wasn’t too outlandish, but for that roughly 30 seconds when I was bare-chested and trying to put on a bra, then swiftly covering it up with a black vest, well my heart was in my mouth to say the least. But I did it, and the rest was a lot easier. It’s quite hard to tell from a vehicle moving at 60 mph if the person at the side of the road is wearing make up or not, and thankfully nobody else pulled in beside me during the make up application process.
By around 4.45pm I was completely transformed, with all trace of Bob bagged up and in the boot. Unexpectedly, I had an 80 miles drive ahead of me as my real self. I know I took quite a chance getting changed at the side of a busy road in that way, but getting to do that drive as my real self was worth it, not to mention two extra hours of Kirsty time.
Since it was such a nice sunny evening, Andrea and I had agreed to meet at Hillsborough Forest and take a leisurely evening stroll round the lake there. While walking round, two young women approached from the opposite direction on bicycles. The second of them looked across at us as she passed and said “Hi Lisa!”. I’m not sure which one of us she was talking to, but it was certainly nice to think that either of us could be mistaken for her (presumably) cis female friend. We had a very enjoyable stroll in beautiful surroundings, before getting back into our cars to go and meet Michelle for a bite to eat at the M&S café in Sprucefield.
Fast forward to Saturday, and I had arranged to meet Andrea at the Outlet near Banbridge. As I have hinted in previous blogs, and earlier in this one, the two of us will be taking a trip together in a few short weeks, and on that trip we will be spending a night in the Lake District. The hotel in which we will be staying is quite near to Wast Water and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. In order to explore the area properly, I was going to need a pair of appropriate shoes – heeled ankle boots or patent ballerinas just aren’t going to cut the mustard. So being an outdoors-y sort of girl, Andrea had volunteered to assist me in my search. She knew that there were at least three “great outdoors” type of specialist retailers at the Outlet, so if I was going to find anything usable I’d find it in one of those shops.
It didn’t start well. We went into Trespass first, and I spied a pair of walking shoes that looked reasonably nice, appropriately girly despite their ruggedness. The label attached stated that they were available right up to size 13! Quickly I realised that the staff were supposed to have crossed off unavailable sizes but had failed to do so. An assistant approached us and asked if she could help – I asked what size the shoes went up to and predictably the reply came back that UK 8 (EU 42) was the biggest they had. Well I thought I would give it a go anyway. Upon putting on the shoes I could feel my toes cramped up against the end. A complete non-starter. Slightly despondent, I removed the shoe and we made our way to the next shop, with me worried that I might end up using Bob’s running shoes which are at least silver and red so not overtly masculine looking.
The second shop was Regatta, so in we went and again saw a few pairs of ladies’ walking shoes and boots. One of the pairs of boots on display was an 8, so I tried it on and wonder of wonders it fitted perfectly. Quite spacious in fact. The only problem was, I don’t really like the look of walking boots – ankle or knee boots are another matter obviously! At this point a male sales assistant had approached us, so I picked out a walking shoe that I liked the look of, and he disappeared into the back of the shop to retrieve it in a size 8. And just like the boot, it fitted my very nicely. Of course, he noticed immediately that I was wearing knee highs (20 denier, although I doubt he would have realised that) which would tend to make shoes feel a bit roomier than had I been wearing thick walking socks. So he produced a pair of socks for me to put on, which I did. The shoes were snug, but not overly so. In fact, my feet felt cosseted, which was rather a pleasant feeling. I could walk and walk in these. So once I said I would take them, he then did the follow-up sale of some specialist socks. Of course, he took me straight to the ladies’ section and suggested a two-pack of fairly thin but absorbent black and deep pink walking socks. Sold again! Even after all this time of being out and about as myself, it felt really special to be immediately brought across to the appropriate section, and have a sales assistant hand me a pair labelled “women’s socks”. Yes, that’s me. A woman.
I genuinely did not believe that I would get what I was looking for, so to find such a nice pair in a great fit so quickly was a real joy. I’m pretty sure Andrea was surprised too at the ease with which I had got kitted out. And as an added bonus, now that I have these walking shoes, I’ll be able to go on some of the Sunday afternoon walks in the countryside organised by the Belfast Social Events Meetup group, the same one that runs my book group and also the Grand National pub meeting that I attended a couple of weeks back as well as many other events in and around the city.
I wonder if it’s a sign of my growing confidence in going about a chunk of my life as a woman that I’m happy, in fact delighted, with this purchase. In my prior existence before coming out to the extent that I have done, I wouldn’t have dreamed of buying something like these shoes. I just wanted glamour, or my own version of it. I was never the type of TV to dress in a ridiculously OTT “sexy” way, with lingerie shots and the like, but I wanted to look like a glamorous, attractive woman. I suppose, like many TV’s, like the kind of woman that I found attractive as a man. But I guess it’s a symptom of my journey from TV to TS or whatever on earth I am that I just want to be myself, and I just want to be accepted for that person. This is me, and I happen to be female. Sometimes I can be chic and glamorous (I hope!), sometimes I can dress down in more practical clothing. Like every other woman.
After we had finished up at the Outlet (a bit of clothes browsing, almost buying yet another pair or wedge sandals, a jewellery purchase for Andrea) we went for a coffee and a chat at our usual stop of Costa in Lisburn, before going back up to Butterfly Club HQ to meet Michelle prior to dinner at the Pheasant at Annahilt, just outside Hillsborough. Andrea and I had dined there a couple of times before, but this was Michelle’s first visit. This was the best meal I have had there to date, and I’m sure there will be more visits in the future.
For starter, all three of us had the seafood chowder. I am a huge fan of chowder, and rarely will not order it if it’s on the menu. This one was very good indeed, although Andrea wasn’t a fan of the large quantity of peas mixed in with the many melt-in-the-mouth fishy chunks. And if the chowder was good, the accompanying hunks of toasted rustic breads were even better. All three of us also went for a seafood main course, and I plumped for the monkfish, served on a bed of fennel with a gorgeous mustard and tarragon mayonnaise dressing and garlic potatoes. More mouth-based meltings. Finally, I had sticky toffee pudding and toffee sauce with honeycomb ice cream, which was every bit as delicious as you would expect. A really lovely meal. The company wasn’t too bad either. Somehow we sat in the restaurant for two and a half hours, and it really did fly by.
Well well well, that turned out to be quite a bit longer than I expected. But if you’ve been reading these blogs for a while, you’ll know that I’m not exactly a woman of few words when it comes to recounting my thoughts and exploits. Why break the habit of a lifetime?